Yorkshire’s Finlay Bean struck the first century of the county season – and the first of his short career – to bring an optimistic start to another season of uncertainty at Headingley.
The 20-year-old opener, playing just his fourth first-class match, struck a wonderfully composed 118 from 149 balls as the LV= County Championship Division Two favourites piled up 285 for three in 60 overs of a weather-affected opening day. England’s Dawid Malan looks set to join Bean on day two, ending with a confident 91no.
It was a less memorable day for England’s record-breaking 18-year-old leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed, who became the country’s youngest men’s international in all three formats over the winter but came crashing back to earth with a bump. In unhelpful conditions he was taken off after a chastening first over was clattered for 22 by Bean, belatedly re-emerging just before the close for another brief spell.
Bean’s knock brought a much-needed feelgood factor to a county who were relegated last season and begin the 2023 campaign against the backdrop of a possible points deduction. Having accepted four charges of historic racism, they await the sanctions of a cricket discipline commission with baited breath.
But while the sins of the past continue to cast a shadow Bean, best known for a record knock of 441 in last summer’s second XI championship, gave a promising glimpse of the future.
With local heroes Joe Root and Harry Brook on IPL duty and Jonny Bairstow only fit enough for a lunchtime net session following his horrific leg break, his stand of 165 with Malan suggested he is ready to pick up the slack.
Leicestershire made a brave call to bowl first and drew first blood when another teenager, 6ft 7in seamer Josh Hull, pinned Adam Lyth lbw for 21 with his fourth delivery in first-class cricket.
While Lyth had been guilty of a couple of errant strokes, Bean was entirely composed. A pair of emphatic drives off Michael Finan got him up and running and from there on, there was a fight to keep the young opener quiet.
A regular flow of boundary balls allowed him to ease Yorkshire into a controlling position and drew Ahmed, chosen as a sole spinner with Callum Parkinson overlooked, into the attack earlier than he might have expected. Having taken a historic five-for in Karachi on his Test debut in December he arrived with a weight of expectation but suffered stage fright.
The conditions were hardly ideal for a teenage leggie, even one with Ahmed’s undoubted potential, but what followed was close to the worst case scenario.
His loosener was looser than anyone could have predicted, a shoulder-high no-ball swatted away by Bean, who gave similar treatment to the next shin-high offering. He exited the over by coughing up another pair of boundaries as Bean swung hard and was immediately removed from the attack.
After a lengthy wait he was finally granted three more overs late in the day, conceding just six more, but plenty more patience will be required.
The contest put some added pep in Bean’s step, though, as he reached 50 in 61 balls, with 40 of those coming in boundaries.
Leicestershire nabbed a second when Finan had James Wharton (24) tickling down leg, but that only worsened their position as Malan arrived at the crease in fine fettle.
Bean allowed the former Test player to take the lead and Malan played with consummate ease as he reeled off his half-century at nearly a run-a-ball. He appeared to have endless time to pick his shots and was in full flow when the rain arrived.
The wait was long but well worth it for Bean, who resumed on 82 and reset himself to reach three figures with the 17th four of a stylish innings – cutting Finan fine behind point. The seamer got his revenge when Bean edged to slip, leaving the stage to Malan.